Thursday, January 05, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Cry of the City (1948)

I'm predisposed to like any 20th Century-Fox film which starts off with Alfred Newman's "Street Scene" playing under the opening credits, but even if it didn't have Newman's classic, often-used theme music, CRY OF THE CITY is excellent film noir.

As the film opens, Last Rites are being said for Martin "Marty" Rome (Richard Conte), who recently killed a cop. Marty is visited in his hospital room by Lt. Candella (Victor Mature), who grew up poor in the same tenements as Marty, and also by the mysterious Teena (Debra Paget). When no one else is in the room, Teena slips in and declares her love for Marty, then vanishes.

Marty recovers enough to stage a jailbreak, but Candella is hot on his tail...

The theme of poor city kids ending up on opposite sides of the law has been done many times, including in MANHATTAN MELODRAMA (1934). (CRY OF THE CITY is not, however, a "rehash" of MANHATTAN MELODRAMA, as is asserted in Leonard Maltin's CLASSIC FILM GUIDE.) The film is bolstered by a strong noir atmosphere, charismatic lead performances, and an excellent supporting cast.

Richard Conte has the majority of the screen time as Marty Rome, and he's so good that it turns into one of those movies where the viewer suddenly realizes he's rooting for a murderer to get away! Mature is a worthy opponent. When I was younger I didn't care much for Mature, who seemed all wrong for Technicolor musicals like MY GAL SAL (1942) and MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID (1952), but his still, rough-hewn persona was perfect for Westerns and film noir, including this title.

Debra Paget, as Teena, bookends the film with scenes at the beginning and end of the movie. She was only 15 when she played the young leading lady opposite Conte, and she's quite effective as the only clean and good thing in Marty's life.

The cast also includes Fred Clark, in an atypically muted role as Candella's partner, Shelley Winters as a woman who helps Marty when he's on the lam, and Hope Emerson as a jewel thief. Mimi Aguglia plays Marty's long-suffering mother, and Tommy Cook is his teenaged brother.

The editing is occasionally a bit jerky or sloppy, and I had the sense I might be missing a thing or two; for instance, Shelley Winters' character seems to come from nowhere. Turns out I was correct; there's a comment on an IMDb message board describing two scenes with Winters which are said to appear on a Region 2 DVD from BFI. A 2007 review of the DVD at Home Cinema confirms the DVD contains footage not seen in the print shown in recent years on Fox Movie Channel.

CRY OF THE CITY was directed by Robert Siodmak. It was shot in black and white by Lloyd Ahern.

The screenplay is by Richard Murphy and an uncredited Ben Hecht, based on the novel THE CHAIR FOR MARTIN ROME by Henry Edward Helseth.

The film runs 95 minutes.

For more on this film, visit Dave's post at Goodfella's Movie Blog.

April 2013 Update: I had a wonderful chance to see this film again in 35mm at the Noir City Film Festival. It looked fantastic on a big screen!

October 2013 Update: CRY OF THE CITY is now available on DVD from the Fox Cinema Archives.

2016 Update: CRY OF THE CITY is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.


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